Though there are multiple components to succeeding in these types of situations, I am going to focus on three ways your family can collectively meet health goals, while not compromising your individual goals. These five ways have proven effective in our home, and I am hopeful they will be of service to your family.
This is the most important. There is psychology behind the way a person eats with varying motivators; therefore, be a person that expresses respect and encouragement instead of disdain and judgement. Yet, in the midst of the differences, find the common ground amongst all of you. It is OK to have civilized conversations and debates regarding nutritional science and lifestyle choices, but remember that we are all biased to some degree; therefore, take a moment to check in, and choose to find ways to celebrate the best in each other.
Our family puts some fun into logging favorite meals by use of a fun notebook journal and a chalkboard in our kitchen. Set up a flexible rule to ask each family member to select at least one meal in the week. This is not something you have to do every night. Some family members may not care to participate, and, other times, you will be utilizing leftovers. The key is to encourage individual input in realistic meal selection. If some of you have little ones that are not talking yet, you can at least let them color on the chalkboard or scribble in the journal! ;-) The intent here is to encourage an environment of food pleasure and fellowship, instead of food and family irritation and stress.
This step is a game changer. Understandably, many busy families resort to quick-fix grain pastas for many meals. It takes minutes to boil pasta and toss in a sauce or bake a frozen entree. However, eating too many grain-based carbs throughout the day can leave everyone with nutritional gaps and possibly hinder weight-loss and encourage weight gain. Anytime you make a pasta dish for the family, make spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles, cauliflower rice or butternut squash rice. Also, make homemade lasagna with one half noodle, one half zucchini or eggplant strips. These alternatives will give you a more nutritious and lower calorie options, for those that are in need or willing to try.
Arguably, these are the easiest meals to customize without spending hours in the kitchen. Large salads and soups are so easy to make vegetarian or paleo simply by making your soup or salad vegetarian first, portioning that out and towards the end of cooking, and adding your pre-cooked animal protein option. Need more than two options? Create your soup or salad base first and divide. Customize the soup contents, salad toppings, and dressings, as needed. Kick-up the fun, by adding a topping and sauce/dressing tray at the dinner table, where each family member can create an even greater customized dish. Chopped nuts, green onions, unique dressings and hot sauces, and fresh herbs are a good start. Store any remaining contents in the refrigerator to incorporate into another meal.
A little compromise goes a long way. It is not wise to compromise on the major differences we have in eating psychology, like eating animal meats if we made a commitment to vegetarianism; however, compromising in some smaller ways can still show that you are willing to cooperate. Cooperation, by its nature, is void of force and rigidity. It shows each family member that their voice is heard, that you all care for one another, and it satisfies everyone's psychological needs. If everyone in the family finds a few ways they are willing to compromise and cooperate, collective health will naturally ensue. For example, if you tell your spouse or your children that you are preparing broccoli as a dinner side, but you know they will only eat them when prepared in certain ways, ask for their input. Ask them their favorite way to eat broccoli and make that!